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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins’2018 Off-Season Road Map

Travis Wingfield

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“It feels right for us right now,” Gase said. “I feel like we’re in a good place. It feels like we’ve got the type of people all working in the same direction and working toward the same goal.”

An exercise as old as time, Adam Gase isn’t reading the press clippings about the third iteration of his Miami Dolphins. After two years in charge and an equal number of victories and defeats (16), the 2018 season figures to be Gase’s signature work.

“It’s never going to be the way we really want it, the way we keep talking about it [being] until guys take control of this thing. There are a lot of things I can do to make things the way we need, but at the end of this [it’s] on player accountability,” Gase said. “We need our leaders to step up. We need them to be vocal. We need them to actually do their part in the leadership role.”

That comment from the 2017 end-of-season press conference signaled signs of change in Miami. Henceforth, the Dolphins devised an off-season plan that would fly in the face of public approval.

Phase 1: Jettison players that don’t prioritize winning
Phase 2: Acquire players to reinforce coach’s message
Phase 3: Get much, much faster and athletic
Phase 4: Develop continuity within our own core principals

What are those core principles? That will be revealed later, but all good stories start at the beginning.

Phase 1: The Exodus

It began on Halloween 2017. Less than a year removed from a breakout 1,200-yard rushing performance, disgruntled running back Jay Ajayi was sent packing. The trade happened on a Tuesday, but Gase was already pouring the dirt over Ajayi’s grave Friday after a 40 point loss in Baltimore.

“We’ve got to stop trying to hit home runs all the time,” Gase said. “How about take the 4 or 5 yards that we’re going to get? 

As the Dolphins limped to a 6-10 record, trading a pro-bowl running back was just the beginning.

Wide receiver Jarvis Landry and his agent somehow instituted a reverse correlation in regards to his contract. Due to hit the market in March, a wide-out with a smaller yards-per-catch figure than a handful of tight ends and running backs was asking to be paid like a premiere receiver.

“Offensively, it’s a joke,” Gase said. “We’ve got too many guys that don’t want to take it home with them. Until our best players actually put forth some effort, it’ll be [expletive].”

Similarly, as it were with Ajayi, the writing was on the wall for Landry – he wasn’t coming back. After all, Gase’s offenses have excelled when there was a democratic ball distribution operation opposed to force-feeding a limited slot guy.

The biggest shoe was still yet to drop. That came when the Dolphins moved on from all-pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. There aren’t many disparaging remarks one can make about Suh’s on-field production – he was a stellar player in Miami.

Each team is given a finite amount of resources to construct its ideal team. Pennies are gold in this business and the decision to axe one proven player to free up cash for unknowns faced its fair share of criticism.

At this point national pundits were in lockstep on the utter disaster that has become a once proud organization. Despite a porous 6-10 mark and a clear roadmap to this eventual outcome, folks weren’t buying it.

Phase 2: Reinforcements

The decision to retain and prop-up quarterback Ryan Tannehill was made months ago. Watching 16 weeks of Jay Cutler, Matt Moore and David Fales will provide a sense of security in a previously proven quarterback.

If you’re not on the Tannehill train, this is where you exit. There’s a healthy contingency of detractors believing anything this team does is irrelevant because of current quarterback situation.

Oct 23, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) throws a pass during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

This column wasn’t written to convince you that Tannehill is a franchise quarterback; this blog has already accomplished that feat. Football minds far smarter than the author, or anyone reading this piece, have made that declaration.

Getting further into the weeds than I intended, no one is mistaking Tannehill for a top-shelf quarterback. Those players come along once for some teams, twice for the lucky and never for the damned.

The challenge Gase and the Dolphins’ brass would face was highlighting the strengths of the seventh-year quarterback. What does Ryan Tannehill do well?

– Accurate in the short/intermediate
– Lethal when afforded adequate time to throw the football
– Elite on play-action and throwing from outside of the pocket

A pair of obvious needs protrude from that list: 1.) Better offensive line play and, 2.) Quick, urgent options in the passing game.

The receiver portion would be a breeze – they grow on trees. Quality offensive line play is at an all-time low in the league and the Dolphins needed to augment 40% of the group. With Laremy Tunsil and Jesse Davis penciled in as quality pass-pro specialists at left tackle and right guard, the Dolphins decided to exercise the fifth-year option on PFF’s #4 pass protecting offensive tackle in Ja’Wuan James.

Next came free-agent Josh Sitton. A veteran with a polished resume and penchant for keeping his quarterback’s clean, Sitton is just what the doctor ordered.

Circle back to Gase’s public roasting of his own players, Mike Pouncey’s perpetual presence in the training room brought about an opportunity to complete this task. Pouncey, who played 16 games for the first time in his career since 2012, was deemed expendable because of his delicate practice availability.

Stepping in is Dan Kilgore who, with the 49ers, excelled in pass protection aside from the games quarterbacked by C.J. Beathard. The entire San Francisco line saw a regression from the mean when the rookie QB took over, and returned back to normalcy when Jimmy Garappolo took the reins.

On the outside, Danny Amendola made a career of fetching short passes from arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play, Tom Brady. Amendola’s playoff resume and third down prowess in an offense predicated on the short passing attack aids Miami in checking the box of priority number two of this phase.

The other addition at the position, as well as the offense in general, fits into phase three.

Phase 3: Speed Kills

Kiko Alonso, Lawrence Timmons, Jarvis Landry and Julius Thomas – names not synonymous with speed. A lack of explosion on offense and a general futility against the opposition’s offensive playmakers indicated the need for a shot in the arm.

Enter Albert Wilson, Mike Gesicki, Jerome Baker and Kalen Ballage.

Wilson is a Landry clone as far as potential production (broke just one fewer tackle than Landry on 99 fewer pass targets). Under the hood, however, Wilson has a much more impressive zero-to-sixty engine.

The elevation of Jakeem Grant from punt returner and part-time gimmick option to full-fledged threat adds to the Dolphins’ element of speed. Sprinkle in Kenny Stills and the Dolphins have a trio of receivers that can blaze sub-4.4 on the stop watch.

A rookie tripod, Gesicki, Baker and Ballage, all measured near the top of list of athletic dynamos at Indianapolis’s combine.

The offense has lacked a critical element in the Adam Gase scheme, the tight end. Gesicki is THE quintessential move piece to serve as the Y-isolation cog in Gase’s offense.

Baker rejoins former Buckeye teammate, Raekwon McMillan, in the middle of a rejuvenated defense. Together, they wreak havoc as well-crafted blitzers and finding their spots in zone and man coverage.

Ballage serves as a plug-and-play option for the departed Damien Williams. A tall, slashing style runner with the ability to flex out and play slot makes the Arizona State product the ideal third-down back – his 4.46 forty-time doesn’t hurt either.

Phase 4: Building an Identity

Keep the quarterback upright, win one-on-one match-ups quickly and offer ultimate game-planning flexibility – the offense has its desired personality in spades. One that can attack the opponent in an entirely different way than the week prior.

A similar shift occurred on the defense. A first round draft pick was spent to bolster a secondary full of names on the come-up. Minkah Fitzpatrick allows the Miami defense to mirror the offense with flexibility. A deep safety and a big nickel, his presence allows pro-bowler Reshad Jones to ball hawk with more freedom.

Dec 11, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins free safety Reshad Jones (20) reacts during a game against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The pass rush was bolstered in an off-season trade that brought Robert Quinn to Miami. William Hayes was re-signed and the Dolphins are now six deep on the edge with passable bodies.

The development of young talent from three consecutive draft classes will be paramount. Kenyan Drake, Laremy Tunsil, Jakeem Grant, Charles Harris, Raekwon McMillan, Xavien Howard, Cordrea Tankersley, Fitzpatrick, Gesicki, Baker and Ballage provide Miami with a rousing young core.

So now the process is complete, the roster is nearly set with 89 names ready to compete in August camp – but what is the plan? What is this team’s identity? First, let’s start with the off-season checklist:

Improve pass protection –

In: Josh Sitton, Dan Kilgore

Out: Ted Larsen, Mike Pouncey

Shift from a primary target to ball distribution offense –

In: Albert Wilson, Danny Amendola, Mike Gesicki, inclusion of Jakeem Grant

Out: Jarvis Landry, Julius Thomas

Improve red zone and third down defense –

In: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Raekwon McMillan, Robert Quinn, Jerome Baker,

Out: Ndamukong Suh, Lawrence Timmons

At the top of the column, I mentioned core principles we can expect to be instituted by the 2018 Miami Dolphins. Gase has come from a long line of successful coaches, primarily on the offensive side of the football. Picking up things along the way from each, his ideal offense would have two traits:

1.) No huddle/tempo-based attack
2.) Flexibility to attack defenses in a variety of ways

Tempo/No-huddle –

Ryan Tannehill is entering his third season in Gase’s offense – the lengthiest stay in any one offense during his seven-year career. Dan Kilgore is healthy and capable of practicing three days a week opposed to the hermetically sealed Mike Pouncey being freed from his bubble just once on Sundays.

Danny Amendola has forgotten more football than most people will even know. Albert Wilson was lauded in Kansas City for his ability to grasp Andy Reid’s complex, nuanced scheme. Plug in the tape of Mike Gesicki at Penn State and you will see the routes he’s going to run in this offense.

Frank Gore was acquired to make the transition to a hurry-up attack more seamless. Paired with third-year back Kenyan Drake (who led the NFL in rushing the final five weeks of the season) the Dolphins are flush with interchangeable backs to keep one another fresh.

The final point is best stated in the next core principle.

Practice How We Intend to Play –

Former offensive line coach and running game coordinator Chris Foerster’s decision making is fair to question. His idea that players ought to be cross trained along the offensive line is great in theory, but it has been the focal point for tantamount breakdowns in protection over the years.

Dec 17, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jesse Davis (77) at the line of scrimmage against the Buffalo Bills during the fourth quarter at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

It contradicts the idea of competition, but the Dolphins have already anointed the starting five offensive linemen. Finding cohesion and rhythm will be a key for this attack, hence getting the front-five as many reps together as possible.

Furthermore, the Sitton, Amendola and Gore acquisitions put a literal captain and coach into each meeting room at the Dolphins’ facility in Davie. With those three, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill, assignments will be communicated and supervised until they’re perfected.

The proof is already in the OTA-pudding as the Dolphins have been running up-tempo, fast-paced practices in May.

You play how you practice.

Defensive Scheme Changes –

Ranking dead last in third-and-long defense, and 30thin red-zone defense, the Dolphins needed to scrap an antiquated scheme and get with the times. Operating with almost no hint of the dime defense, and instead sticking with linebackers to cover athletic tight ends and backs, Matt Burke has one black mark on his resume.

But he can quickly quell those disparaging viewpoints by implementing the new talent on this defense. Fitzpatrick and the newly re-signed Bobby McCain give him flexibility at the slot, safety and perimeter positions. Removing Kiko Alonso from the equation and dropping an accomplished defensive back onto the field should pay immediate dividends.

The Eagles made a miraculous run to the city’s first Lombardi Trophy in 2017. An array of pass rushers that consistently pressure quarterbacks with a four-man rush, at any point of the game, was the key for that championship defense.

Miami is hoping to emulate that plan with veterans Cam Wake, Robert Quinn and Andre Branch. The lynchpin is second-year pro Charles Harris who flashed as a rookie, but was often a fraction of a second late getting to the quarterback.

Will all of this work? That remains to be seen and it’s why they play the games.

For it to work, the offense needs to click rather quickly. The schedule is advantageous at the beginning of the season with four home games in the sweltering South Florida Heat prior to Halloween. Operating an effective, efficient no-huddle scheme will put the visitor in a precarious position.

For it to work Tannehill has to stay healthy. The options behind him are an unattractive dearth of backups and journeymen.

For it to work the running game needs to find success. This team isn’t equipped to line up and run it downhill, but it can certainly take advantage favorable numbers the defense shows in the box. If the passing game works, the running game will work.

This Miami Dolphins team will pass to set up the run.

For it to work on defense, Minkah Fitzpatrick needs to be everything he’s portrayed as.

For it to work, Raekwon McMillan needs to be everything he’s portrayed as.

For it to work, Xavien Howard, Bobby McCain, Cordrea Tankersley, Charles Harris, Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor need to prove their flashes are a sign of things to come, not a fluky occurrence.

Where We Are Now –

The blueprint to operate a controlled passing game at an urgent pace has been laid forth. Complementing the offense is a faster defense with reinforcements added at all three levels. Depth in the secondary and on the line will encourage rotation and implementation of new schemes.

The concern is the process of acclimating so many new pieces. The no-huddle was scrapped before for its complexities derailed its overall effectiveness.

If the pieces don’t gel quickly, if the injury bug hits one or two key areas, it could all blow up.

Regardless of the results, the process all adds up. For the first time in a while, Miami has revealed a vision. Every move made coincides with that vision. It makes sense.

Will the vision come to fruition? September is right around the corner.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Fantasy Football: Which Dolphins Players Could Lead You To Victory?

Chris Kowalewski

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In a matter of weeks, mandatory mini-camp will be over and NFL fans will be entering the darkest days of the football calendar as an uneasy silence reigns over the league from mid-June until the start of training camps in late July.

The stillness is occasionally broken with the news of player injury or arrest and fans eagerly wait through the heights of summer for camp to arrive.

While it may not be the time for on-field action, the virtual world of Fantasy Football begins to bloom during these months and web-traffic fills up with mock fantasy drafts and lists of player rankings for the season ahead.

Year after year the rankings remain remarkably similar with the same handful of players finding themselves among the top of their position on an annual basis, seemingly immovable from their perches of NFL stardom. Those players have such notoriety, reliability and resilience as the kings of fantasy football that, if you listen really closely, you can actually hear Sam Elliott narrating their résumés.

But anyone who has experienced even a single season of fantasy football – whether it was the gruelling lows or the thrilling highs – will be aware that there always seem to be a handful of players who surface from the depths of the mock drafts and countless rankings to save a season. 

It is those players who can find themselves evolving from a late round panic-grab or waiver wire trophy into a key weapon in the battle for the playoffs and a league championship trophy.

Whatever the stakes may be in your fantasy league, the thrill of landing one of those potential players is an exciting prospect. Rather than hedging all your bets on scouring the waiver wire each week, we’re going to have a look at a selection of Miami Dolphins players ay key positions who may be able to help your team this year whether as a hidden gem, or as a clear cut starter each week (Note: There aren’t many of those).

The Miami Dolphins’ roster is widely considered by national commentators to be among the thinnest and least talented in the NFL heading into 2019. It seems like the Dolphins’ injury-riddled 2018 season carried a higher body count than the fiery destruction of King’s Landing and the lacklustre results which followed did nothing to contradict this impression as to the quality of the team’s roster.

But sifting through the broken bones, torn tendons and jammed-up joints of last year is a number of Dolphins players, both veterans and newcomers, who could be the ones to come to the rescue and salvage your fantasy season. Others, you may wish to pick up but would be wiser to leave well alone. 

Either way, let’s dig through the roster and have a look at who those players might be; whether or not you should pick them up; whether they might be able to help and; where you might aim to pick them up when your fantasy draft rolls around.

We’ll assume you’re part of a common 10-team league and, to keep things standardised, use end-of-season stats and rankings using NFL.com’s scoring system.

QUARTERBACKS

We’ll start off short and sweet here. A Dolphins quarterback is likely to be a ‘no-no’ when it comes to your fantasy team. 

Ryan Fitzpatrick may have come out of the gates flying in 2018 throwing for 1,230 yards and 11 TDs and 97.4 fantasy points in the first 3 weeks (!!!) but the FitzMagic soon Fitzzled out (terrible pun, but I’m not sorry) and he quickly came crashing back down to earth in week 4 when he was benched and replaced by the returning Jameis Winston. Fitzpatrick subsequently ended the season as the 28th ranked QB in the league and his history of erratic play is what both prolongs his career and sees him move quickly on, now on his 8th team in 14 years. In addition, he’ll be competing for the job against Josh Rosen which means his position as a starter is uncertain. 

What Should I Do? Leave him alone, but keep an eye on him on the waiver wire if (1) the Dolphins roll with him as the starter, (2) your starter goes down and (3) you want to gamble on Fitzpatrick hitting a hot streak. However, Fitzpatrick should come with a warning sticker and only be used as a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency QB.

Josh Rosen comes to Miami after having been plucked from the rubble in Arizona, where he had been temporarily anointed as the saviour of the Cardinals. Rosen started 13 games on a team devoid of talent at almost every position (Larry Fitzgerald being the clear exception) and looked every part of a rookie in the headlights. With 11 TD and 14 INTs for 2278 passing yards Rosen ranked as the league’s 34th best passer in 2018. He’s likely to grab the staring spot in Miami based on their inevitable need to assess him as part of the franchise’s future, but the unknowns surrounding his talent and ability at the NFL level heavily outweighs any consideration of drafting him in all but 12 team/2 QB leagues.

What Should I Do? Follow the example of the Dolphins front office and spend the season watching how Rosen develops, but leave him off your fantasy team on draft night.

RUNNING BACKS

This is where it gets interesting for Dolphins players and their fantasy-relevance. 

A clear rift had developed during 2018 between Kenyan Drake and former Head Coach, Adam Gase, before his departure. Fans clamoured from the stands about the lack of touches being given to the Dolphins’ most electrifying running back during the season, even as future HOF’er Frank Gore continued on his quest to defy Father Time.However, despite a limited workload, Drake quietly finished the year as the 14th ranked RB with 1,012 all purpose yards and 9 TDs for 206.20 points.

Brian Flores and Chad O’Shea had front row seats to witness the ‘Miracle in Miami’ and reportedly want to establish an offensive scheme which places a heavy focus on their running backs in both passing and ground game. James White (who Coach Flores has specifically asked Drake to study) amassed only 425 rushing yards as part of a busy Patriots backfield but also caught 87 passes for 751 yards and a combined 12 TDs which was good enough to place him as the 7th ranked fantasy RB in 2018.

Although Miami will unlikely field the same caliber of QB, the overall offensive plan will have clear similarities and Drake can expect a highly important role in O’Shea’s creative offense. Reports suggest that the Dolphins will eventually want to move towards a ‘ground and pound’ rushing attack but the O-Line issues, which have been problematic in Miami for far too long, could still provide some obstacles to this. Scheme and planning will therefore be the keys to a successful ground game and in taking some pressure off of the QB.

Dan Orlovsky, former QB and sky-rocketing as a talented football analyst was a guest on the Move The Sticks Podcast with Daniel Jeremiah on Monday this week. He made a valid point regarding Chad O’Shea’s experience at creating schemes to mask the deficiencies in offensive talent and it is certainly not just Dolphins homerism to expect him to find a way to get the most out of Kenyan Drake.

Entering his contract year as the clear starter, Drake will be keen to produce on the field to help in his search for an upcoming payday, whether in Miami or elsewhere.

What Should I Do? Drake is absolutely a target in the draft and one who might find himself sliding down draft boards considering the overall general perception of Miami’s ability to score. Using this to your advantage, you may expect to be able to pick up Drake as low as Round 4 as the 15th to 20th RB off the board, even though his actual value may warrant a significantly higher pick. With any luck you can find phenomenal value here with have filling an RB2 or even RB3 spot and sit back to watch him bring in those elusive points.

Kalen Ballage is the main threat to Drake’s fantasy value on Miami’s roster and he showed his speed against the Vikings with a blistering 75 yard touchdown run in Week 15. Possessing many of the same traits as Kenyan Drake, he’s unlikely to perform much of a power grab in goal-line situations, but in Year 2 his workload is expected to increase which should see him jump from the 87th ranked RB into the early-mid 30’s.

What Should I Do? As the Dolphins move towards heavy utilisation of their RBs, Kalen Ballage is certainly draft-worthy. Although he figures to sit behind Drake on the depth chart in Miami, Ballage should be drafted in the later rounds as a backup in case Drake or your fantasy starters go down with injury. He could end up being a steal as the 4th or 5th RB on your roster may be someone who brings you those much needed points later in the season.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Returning from a hip injury sustained last year, Albert Wilson is likely to be the most exciting WR prospect on the Dolphins from a fantasy POV. Although the severity of the injury is not without its concerns, Wilson’s potential is undeniable.

Taking what were essentially hand-offs to the house against the Raiders and showing his speed and elusiveness in the win over the Bears, Wilson was on pace for a stand-out season when healthy, hauling in 90.18 points in his 6 full games. Extrapolated over a full season, this would have been good for 240.48 points, which would have placed him as the 14th highest scoring WR in the league even with an injured Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler at the helm.

What Should I Do? Wilson’s recovery from a fracture and labrum tear will be something to pay close attention to, but there is some promising potential for Wilson to come in as a WR3 where he could bring some fiery depth to your fantasy roster when injury strikes. Even if fully healthy, Wilson may even come off the board as low as the 40-50th WR and you could find yourself a great value investment which brings in some fruitful returns.

Kenny Stills developed a productive rapport with Ryan Tannehill during the 2016 campaign and demonstrated a talent for hauling in deep passes. Having only recently turned 27, his best football may still be ahead of him and he possesses dangerous speed as a downfield threat. Stills is absolutely due for a bounce-back year, though given the uncertain nature of the Dolphins’ ability to pass-protect, a dink-n’-dunk/ball control style of passing attack may be what we see on game days which would require a slight shift in Still’s game.

What Should I Do? Stills was reportedly taking reps as the slot receiver in OTAs this week – perhaps this is just a sign of WR versatility within the offense, but either way Kenny Stills figures to be a big part of the game plan and will likely find himself as the first Dolphins WR off the board. He will look to improve upon his 59th ranked WR position in 2018 (149.62 points) and would ideally be suited to a WR3 or WR4 spot on your own roster. 

Jakeem Grant is back on the field after suffering a calf/achilles injury in 2018 which unfortunately ended his season early. Jakeem’s speed prior to injury was unreal and only time will tell whether he is able to regain his full quickness, explosiveness and acceleration. Revealed on Tuesday’s OTA is that Grant is lining up at almost every WR position in practice and is expected to feature prominently in the game plan. 

What Should I Do? If the Dolphins are to have any success on offense in 2019, they are likely going to have to get creative and Jakeem Grant will be someone who may be able to help. There may well be weeks where Grant sees significant playing time in creative circumstances and is a playmaker just waiting for his chance. From a fantasy point of view, consistency as to the number of weekly targets may be a concern and unless you have a deep bench on your roster, Jakeem may just be someone you need to watch over on the waive wire.

If you’re a fan of the Dolphins, you’ve probably already learned the hard way that DeVante Parker hasn’t helped your fantasy team to any great degree. OTAs mean it is time for Parker to show the promise which landed him as the 14th overall pick in 2015 but as seemingly happens each year, the hype amounts to little production. Too many stories surround Parker with regards to his immaturity and lack of commitment off the field, perhaps some of which has contributed to a carousel of injuries which keep him on the sidelines for large stretches. Ranked as the 105th WR in 2018 with 60.9 points, Parker’s arrow only really points up but the question of whether he chooses to follow it’s direction remains.

What Should I Do? Parker regularly wins the title of practice MVP. His freakish athleticism and natural talent is obvious but it remains to be seen whether the new coaching regime can help him with the fundamentals necessary for sustained success. If so, Parker could turn into be a point-machine but just don’t hold your breath. DeVante is likely be picked up earlier than he should be based on name value alone – if so, be happy that the pick means someone else may fall to you when you’re on the clock. Stashing him on your bench for depth is fine if you’re one of his remaining believers, but history suggests you are unlikely to get much by way of return if you have to rely on him on a weekly basis.

The dark horse of the receiver group is potentially Preston Willliams. He arrives in Miami as a UDFA from Colorado State where he had 96 catches for 1,345 yards and 14 TDs last season. His boatload of talent, size and physicality could even eventually land him the WR1 role if (and this is a BIG ‘if’) he stays out of trouble and is committed to following a professional training plan to the letter. Miami has been on the search for a true WR1 for years and Williams has a great opportunity in front of him to develop into it. 

What Should I Do? Unless he flourishes during training camp into an obvious starter for the Dolphins, Williams may initially find himself on the practice squad or sitting behind several veterans in a crowded and competitive receiver room. The talent is undoubtedly present, but it is still very early days for Williams’ career – keep an eye on his roster position (especially if injuries begin to mount up) and development for the future, particularly in deep dynasty leagues.

TIGHT ENDS

To say that Mike Gesicki had an underwhelming rookie year would be kind. He was routinely physically outmatched in blocking assignments and the receiving skills which he showed at Penn State were not put to good use in his debut season. From a fantasy perspective, Gesicki finished the season as the 50th ranked TE with 22 catches for 202 yards and 40.2 points. However, TE is notoriously one of the most difficult positions to learn in football and there is still valid and reasonable hope that Gesicki can take one of his giant, bounding steps forward in his second year.

The Dolphins currently have an array of TEs on their roster, including Durham Smythe, Dwayne Allen, Nick O’Leary, Clive Walford and Chris Myarick, making it all the more difficult to recommend drafting any as viable fantasy prospects. Mike Gesicki figures to place himself as the main passing target out of the group and certainly has the talent to do so. A full offseason of professional development and time in the weight room should benefit him greatly. 

What Should I Do? Gesicki will likely go undrafted in most 10 team leagues other than those with extensive bench space, especially considering the Dolphins crowded current TE room. However, he still poses as Miami’s most draft-worthy TE on the roster. His freakish pre-draft combine alone proved that there is a lot of athleticism to take advantage of, and he may make a good backup TE once the season starts if you have space to stash him on your bench. Otherwise keep an eye on his numbers if you tend to stream TEs or need a stand-in when your starter is on his bye week.

DEFENSE / IDP

Despite Brian Flores’ defensive masterpiece displayed in Super Bowl 53, the Dolphins defense/special teams is expected to rank near the bottom of the league after ranking 13th in 2018 with a total of 116 points. They are still young and inexperienced, especially entering their first year of a new scheme and are far from being a complete group. Whilst turnovers will come due to talents in Miami’s secondary, gaining sacks and giving up points is expected to be an issue. Steer clear of picking them to be your staring group as there will almost certainly be better fantasy value available elsewhere.

Having said that, for IDP leagues, there are still some bright, shiny and sparkly pieces on this Dolphins team which may help you increase your point totals on a weekly basis. You’ll likely only carry one of each of these in all but the deepest of leagues, but below are a few players you may want to grab before a run on defensive players begins.

At the top of that list is safety, Reshad Jones, despite an increasing age and a history of shoulder injuries which have cut his season short in previous years. There may be something still to keep an eye on with regards to Jones’ attendance when mandatory mini-camp rolls around but Flores has confirmed he expects Reshad to be there in early June. Reshad’s instagram videos of his boxing workouts should alleviate most concerns about his shoulders and it seems that his previous disagreements lay primarily with the team’s former coaching staff – Jones was publicly unhappy with Matt Burke’s scheme last year, pulling himself out of the game vs the Jets in Week 9. However, if Jones returns to the Dolphins as a happy man, he has potential to revert to his Pro Bowl form on the field and as a vital point machine as a DB on your fantasy team. Always good to rack up a mountain of tackles, a handful of picks, a sprinkle of sacks, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries and the odd TD, Reshad Jones is a top-tier DB in fantasy football when healthy and offers the potential of those elusive extra points needed to give you the winning edge.

Xavien Howard will get his picks on the season, but unless your league counts broken-up passes, swatted balls and quarterbacks generally avoiding throwing his way when at all possible, Reshad Jones should still be the best fantasy option among Dolphins defensive backs.

The blatantly obvious other name to keep an eye on amongst defensive players is Minkah Fitzpatrick, especially when it comes to dynasty leagues. This versatile football junkie is a playmaker and studies opposing offences hard. Rumours circling in Miami that he will be used all over the field and he will certainly get his opportunities to make tackles and interceptions when presented with them. While Minkah has every potential, talent and drive to develop into one of the NFL’s top-tier defenders, his varied positioning could also result in a lack of consistency from a fantasy perspective, meaning he could still fall behind other DBs around the league when it comes to points.

Gone are the days when, as a Dolphins fan, you could select Cameron Wake as your DL option and watch him haul in fantasy numbers. Trying to focus on pass rushers who are still on Miami’s roster leaves everything looking a little blurry. Rookie DT, Christian Wilkins is the best bet for Dolphins ‘homers’ who insist on being able to cheer for their team both on the TV and on the fantasy battlefield, racking up 192 tackles, (including 40.5 for a loss) 21 sacks and 2 forced fumbles in his college career. Whilst unlikely to be a pure pass rusher in Patrick Graham’s defense, he may still show himself to a better option than Charles Harris who is entering his 3rd year with a lot to prove. Overall though, it’s best to look outside of Miami for your DL options.

KICKER

If you haven’t seen the videos online of Jason Sanders booting 70 yard field goals with ease, it might be worth tracking them down on YouTube just to see how impossible a field goal at that distance seems. Hand-picked by the Dolphins former special teams guru, Darren Rizzi, Sanders’s leg defies science and he could be primed for a big (in relative terms) fantasy season on a team which could find themselves settling for a lot of field goals. Making those kicks under pressure is another thing, but Sanders has proven he has the leg to make the long distance and could show himself to be a safe option in fantasy in the final round of your draft.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Sign Adolphus Washington

Chris Kowalewski

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The deadline for Free Agency signings impacting the compensatory pick formula expired on 8 May 2019 and the Dolphins were expected to be possible players in the secondary FA market.

Things have been quiet on the Dolphins’ front, but it is being reported today that the team has added to their DL group with the signing of Adolphus Washington.

Formerly a 3rd round pick of the Bills in 2016 before a short stint in Cincinnati last season, Washington has played in 35 career games netting 62 tackles and 4.5 sacks.

The Dolphins DL group is in need of support but the Dolphins seem to have shifted their philosophy to avoid over-paying for bigger name Free Agents.

Washington likely joins the Dolphins as another body ahead of June’s mini-camp and training camp later this summer, but the opportunity for a roster spot will be there for those who wish to capitalise upon it.

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Miami Dolphins

Maximizing Minkah Fitzpatrick’s Unique Versatility

Travis Wingfield

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For HC Brian Flores an DC Patrick Graham, Sophomore Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick Can Do it All

From the moment he heard his name called on Draft Night 2018, Minkah Fitzpatrick was an instant hit among Dolphins fans.

Fitzpatrick, winner of two prestigious collegiate awards (Bednarik and Thorpe, one of three players in history to win both — Charles Woodson and Patrick Peterson the others), is one of college football’s all-time most decorated athletes. The individual hardware, two national titles, and two All-American honors didn’t happen by accident; it was a result of diligence and the workman like mentality Fitzpatrick developed from a young age.

Dubbed “Saban’s Son” for his astute preparation and relationship with Alabama Legend Nick Saban, Fitzpatrick is a quick-study. The Dolphins knew this before he donned the aqua and orange. From a captivating 10-part piece titled The Secret Life of NFL Scouts, written by Yahoo’s Pete Thamel in August of last year, Fitzpatrick’s dedication to the craft beguiled Miami.

Fitzpatrick’s versatility was on display from the jump in South Florida.

Minkah Fitzpatrick’s Snaps by Position Per Pro Football Focus:

Position 2018 Snaps
Slot Cornerback 379
Perimeter Cornerback 281
Deep Safety 166
Box Safety 95
Defensive Line (Edge Blitz/TE coverage) 23
Total 944

 

For fulfillment’s sake, Fitzpatrick played an additional 100 snaps on special teams.

This jack-of-all-trades role was adopted more out of necessity than clever game planning. Beginning the year exclusively as a nickel (slot) corner, Fitzpatrick was lock-down in the season’s first two games.

Playing 86 snaps in those first two games of his career, opponents passed for 48 yards on 13 throws into Fitzpatrick’s coverage area. That 3.69 YPA figure would be considered low for a running back, much less in a pass-heavy league that breeds passers in the 8.0 YPA range (9 players eclipsed 8.0 YPA in 2018).

In addition to the lockdown cover skills, Fitzpatrick added four run stops (tackles within two yards of the line-of-scrimmage) in his debut and encore NFL appearances.

After a pair of starts at safety — one good, one not-so-much — Fitzpatrick slid back into his slot corner position exclusively for the next three games. In that stretch, against Cincinnati, Chicago and Detroit, Fitzpatrick yielded 61 receiving yards on 9 targets (6.78 YPA).

Fitzpatrick then kicked back out to the safety spot for two games, versus the Texans and Jets, before settling into a five-game stretch as a perimeter corner. During that elongated experiment, Fitzpatrick held the opposition to a 57% completion percentage when tested in coverage.

After the week 15 drubbing in Minneapolis, Fitzpatrick transitioned again to safety, with mixed results once more. The entire process was a learning experience and a great indicator for what this budding star can be in Miami’s new defensive scheme.

I spoke to Fitzpatrick after the week 13 Buffalo game — his third start at perimeter corner. I asked him about the many responsibilities heaped onto his plate throughout the season and how he felt about playing on the outside.

“It definitely developed me. I had to learn the whole defense which makes me more comfortable. Knowing the defense means I can be more instinctive, play faster and just react.”

It remains to be seen how the Dolphins will utilize this Swiss Army Knife. Though Fitzpatrick has been working with the safeties so far during the offseason program, that doesn’t preclude him from bouncing around the formation the way New England has deployed its own versatile safeties under Flores’ watch.

The tape will give us a better indication for the exact roles of New England’s exceptional safety tandem, but the snaps-by-position, according to Pro Football Focus, are as follows:

 

Devin McCourty’s 2018 Positions 2018 Snaps
Slot Cornerback 143
Perimeter Cornerback 61
Deep Safety 611
Box Safety 349
Defensive Line (Edge Blitz/TE coverage) 19
Total 1,183

 

Patrick Chung’s 2018 Positions 2018 Snaps
Slot Cornerback 276
Perimeter Cornerback 120
Deep Safety 77
Box Safety 406
Defensive Line (Edge Blitz/TE coverage) 152
Total 1,031

 

The discernible difference comes from the deep and short safety roles. Both, as evident by the numbers, will come down and cover (McCourty with 223 coverage matchup snaps and Chung with 548), but Chung takes on more than double the responsibility of McCourty in that regard.

Therein lies Minkah’s likely role in the defense. As we showcased with the above videos, Fitzpatrick is a high-level processer than can quickly key and diagnose, he’s a tremendous tackler, and a fantastic man-coverage player — not unlike Chung.

Minkah Fitzpatrick is going to play 1,000+ snaps for the Dolphins in 2019. He’s likely to, barring medical changes, stay on the field for 100% of Miami’s defensive snaps.

With Xavien Howard taking care of one side of the field in man coverage, Fitzpatrick’s versatility can free up the rest of the defense, and allow the Dolphins to mix and disguise its combination coverages.

Fitzpatrick, for his skill, leadership, and versatility, is the most important player on Brain Flores’ defense. With the best yet to come, if he hasn’t already, Fitzpatrick is in-line to capture the hearts of Dol-fans everywhere.

@WingfieldNFL

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